Eternity, Infinity, Religion and Transhumanism

Jake Costello (
Sun, 17 Nov 1996 14:32:49 -0600

Sometimes terms like "eternal life" and "immortality" seemed to get
tossed around pretty casually around here. This is a bit curious to me,
since one of the main driving forces behind my leaving Xtianity (and
ultimately bumping into transhumanism)that the idea of truly eternal
life ceased to automatically be appealing or even make any sense.
What do I mean, it doesn't make sense? Eternal life and
immortality as traditionally conceived refer to infinities. (I'm using
"eternal" in its temporal, rather than atemporal, sense). Everybody
on this list is certainly well acquainted with the fundamental
difference between an infinite quantitity and a finite quantity, no
matter how large. An infinity is as different from a finite quantity as
any finite quantity is from a zero.
To make a not exactly logical leap here, it seems equally
obvious that an infinite (or semi-infinite) lifespan is as different
from any finite lifespan as a finite lifespan is from never existing at
all. Theologians have long recognized this difficulty. Unfortunately,
the answers they give tend to boil down to the most intellectually
dishonest trick in their arsenal: It's beyond human understanding.
What I want to know is, how many of you want real eternal life
as opposed to an indefinite lifespan? (The difference here is a fuzzy
part of these wonderings, but the real difficulties that come with
eternal life don't seem to be a problem with indefinite lifespans.)
For those of you who do, how do you conceive of such an existence?
Much has been written in extropian circles about how one can
meaningfully retain one's identity while vastly augmenting one's mental
capabilities. It seems to me that if one proposes truly eternal life,
the task must be at least partially repeated to justify a claim to being
the same person, living eternally.
As to myself, I'm inclined towards a bit despair (not very
extropian, for sure.) Some form of atemporality seems the best option,
but this is really fuzzy territory.

dreaming of Rivendell,

jake costello